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Uber’s riverboat rebrand takes to the Thames

Image credit: pa

Uber has launched a London boat service in collaboration with Thames Clipper that will ferry people up and down the Thames, starting from today.

The partnership will see Thames Clipper's fleet of 20 boats rebranded as the 'Uber Boat by Thames Clippers', with departures from 23 piers across London from Putney in the west to Woolwich Royal Arsenal in the east.

The river boat service is designed for both commuters and leisure passengers and will continue to be operated by Thames Clipper, just as it always has been, and which reopened for business on 15 June following a few months without operation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Uber is rolling out the service on its app, meaning users can purchase tickets in advance to guarantee a seat and then use QR technology to board. The payment will be processed using the traveller's Uber account details.

Passengers will still be able to purchase tickets via the existing channels, including touching in and out with contactless or Oyster to pay-as-you-go and via its own ticketing app.

The service follows previous efforts by Uber to expand beyond the ride-hailing service it is known for, including an e-bike service that was scrapped in May; a driverless truck project that was abandoned in 2018, alongside continued attempts to develop quiet aircraft and flying cars.

Thames Clipper said that more than 4.3 million people use its services for commuting and leisure trips each year.

Jamie Heywood, Uber’s regional general manager for Northern and Eastern Europe, said: “As Londoners begin to head back to work and safely move across the city, they will now be able to travel on both the river and road through the Uber app.

“We must ensure that everyone does not return to their cars in response to the crisis, so our vision is to end private car ownership in favour of shared electric vehicles, as well as making greater use of the river network for urban mobility.”

Sean Collins, co-founder and CEO of Thames Clippers, said: “This partnership reflects the resurgence of the river and we’re looking forward to welcoming new passengers on-board to enjoy the unique benefits of navigating London safely by taking to the Thames.

“We recently announced an expansion of the service out to Barking Riverside and the 'Uber Boat by Thames Clippers' partnership will serve to boost our plans to expand further east and enhance our offering with connectivity in the west.”

Uber has previously faced difficulties in London due to concerns over its operations that have led TfL to suspend its licence.

Uber was eventually granted a 15-month licence following an appeal. However, TfL refused the ride-sharing firm’s application for another new licence late last year after at least 14,000 trips were made with drivers who were not the ones shown on the app.

An appeal against that decision is ongoing.

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